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Latest Lena Tam Affair Attorney Letters Released

Alameda City Councilmember Lena Tam has apparently filed a claim with the City of Alameda to have the City reimburse her for legal fees incurred in her defense of the allegations of misconduct against her. Apparently as a result of that claim, the City of Alameda, and subsequently, through a public records request, Action Alameda News, have acquired a copy of an August 12th, 2010 letter from Tam’s attorney to the District Attorney – one that the D.A. previously refused to release either to the City or to this publication – and a copy of the letter that City of Alameda Special Counsel Michael Colontuono sent in response.

Both letters are reproduced in their entirety below. Mr. Colontuono indicated that Ms. Tam is asking for the City to pay for her legal fees by opening his September 20th letter with, “I have now had a opportunity to review Mr. Keker’s August 12, 2010 letter, which Ms. Tam provided to the City’s risk pool via an August 28, 2010 letter in an effort to obtain reimbursement from the City of Mr. Keker’s legal fees.” John Keker is Tam’s attorney, and Action Alameda News has made a public records request to the City of Alameda for a copy of Tam’s August 28th letter.

Colontuono follows this up by asserting that Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley erred in adopting Mr. Keker’s viewpoint on Tam’s actions, which resulted in the D.A.’s office dismissing the City’s complaint without pursuing an investigation.

Mid-way through the letter, Colontuono wrote, “I understand that some months ago, before my investigation began, Ms. Tam told other City officials that she and Supervisor Alice Lai-Bitker had car trouble while driving in the city [of Alameda] and that you personally came to pick them up. That she felt comfortable sharing this story suggests that Ms. Tam feels a degree of personal familiarity with you. In addition, you live in the city and, as a newly elected official, were endorsed in your June campaign not only by Ms. Tam, but by a number of her political supporters, including Councilmember Marie Gilmore, Alameda Hospital Boardmember Rob Bonta, community activist Barbara Kahn, Supervisor Lai-Bitker, Supervisor-elect Wilma Chan, elected Oakland City Attorney John Russo and community activist C.C. Yin. Thus, it appears that you may have a sufficient personal and political relationship with Ms. Tam that you may wish to abstain from this matter.”

In addition to endorsing Lena Tam, Rob Bonta and Marie Gilmore for Alameda City Council and Mayoral seats, the Alameda County Democratic Party Central Committee has also endorsed Nancy O’Malley for the District Attorney position.

At the end of the letter, Colontuono asks the District Attorney to refer the matter to the State Attorney General’s office for investigation, or “a respected neutral with no ties to the Alameda County political circles in which Ms. Tam, you and other elected officials must travel.”

Keker Colontuono Letters Aug Sep 2010

14 comments to Latest Lena Tam Affair Attorney Letters Released

  • Vania

    Alameda = North Bell ?

  • Beginning to look that way.

  • Barb

    What do TAM and SUNCAL have in common? Blind arrogance! This is what we get with both TAM and the entity to which she leaked confidential communications. The taxpayers get to pay for their wrongs? Something is seriously amiss in this picture. The statute of limitations has not run on either suing TAM or the DA waking up and prosecuting her friend.

    How can the Council conduct business with TAM on it? Everything that needs to be done in closed session can be leaked to the other side with absolutely no consequences. The Council needs to rethink suing her. But we can thank TAM for showing her true colors and the extent of her disloyalty to the City of Alameda.

    If IzzyAshcraft and Bonta are elected, and TAM re-elected, our tax dollars might as well be flushed down the toilet. The ICM and CA will be fired and they can sue the City too. And they will win.
    TAM, BONTA and IZZY will hand the keys over to SUNCAL, reimburse it for all of its expenses, pay for the EIR and then let the gridlock begin. None of the public benefits will ever be built, because everyone will be too busy suing the City. Thank you LENA TAM.

  • Hot R

    Remember I predicted the ICM and city attorney would be fired after the election. But what would be the basis of a lawsuit against the city? Wrongful termination based on ???

    And Barb – I thought that Izzy Aschcraft was good buddies with the Mayor and would vote the same way? Isn’t the Mayor against Suncal now?

    And Tam will be reelected because despite the noise on this site, her supporters either don’t care or view it as racist chatter, especially with Dennis Green going on other websites and claiming Gilmore and Tam are “bitches” calling Tam “Szechuan Beef” and making wild claims about them and others being on Suncal’s payroll. Someone is going to be looking at a libel and slander lawsuit…

  • Elected officials, public officials and public figures in California have no hope of achieving anything with a slander/libel lawsuit…

  • Barb

    Hot R:
    As we have all seen, elected officials have been known to change their minds about SUNCAL. Too much is at stake to risk on unproven candidates with SUNCAL. SUNCAL has the financial ability to drop tens of thousands of dollars into campaign coffers. JOHNSON has taken alot of heat for her past position on SUNCAL. I trust her to not repeat her initial mistake. Once burned she is not going back into the fire.
    TAM and GILMORE have proven their loyalty to each other. That should put us all on notice for those two. BONTA has received so much out of City money, that one has to wonder why? His supporters include some of the 20 or so people/entities who publically supported and campaigned for and got SUNCAL entrenched here. Izzy Ashcraft lost last time she ran so what has she got that is new to offer? And just because Johnson appointed her to the Planning Board, doesn’t mean Johnson can’t make a mistake. If Johnson thinks IzzyAshcraft would be good for the City, why is she running against her?

    There are a lot of nice torts out there, and I suspect that an enterprising attorney would be glad to take a case for the CA and ICM against the City. All they did was do their jobs, as instructed by the Council. The fact that one councilmember, TAM leaked 31 confidential emails, is enough to make any jury of right thinking citizens, to ask why fire them? Add to that the 85% plus that voted against SUNCAL, and one sees the ICM and CA have the public’s support. Even if TAM, BONTA and SUNCAL disapprove.

  • Well, apparently Hot Air has been reading someone else’s comments, (“libel and slander…”), on other blogs, because I don’t visit them anymore, haven’t done so in months. Too toxic and brain-dead. And please remember, Michele Ma Belle has blocked me from commenting on “The Island” blog, which attracts only a tiny minority of commentators anyway, the usual suspects, Jon Spangler, Mark Irons, Bonta and Jeff and occasionally Mrs. Not-So-Quick. I don’t pay any attention to that minority anymore, for the voters of Alameda will be kicking Tam and Bonta, Gilmore and McMahon to the curb in November, of that you can be sure!

  • Vania

    Alameda’s City Council made a wise decision in not extending the expiration date of SunCal’s exclusive negotiation agreement for Alameda Point.

    When the city first made that contract, they believed that SunCal had the economic where-with-all to pay for construction of the project’s public infrastructure.

    Then SunCal came to the City Council and asked for an amendment to the contract, to allow an entity funded by hedge fund D.E. Shaw to become the money partner in Alameda Point. After reviewing D.E. Shaw’s documentation in closed session, probably violating both the Brown Act and the Public Records Act, the City Council approved including the D.E. Shaw entity in the deal. The public never got to see the documents presented to the full Council by D.E. Shaw or SunCal, and the public never got to hear what the representatives of D.E. Shaw or SunCal said to the Council about the new partnership between the two.

    Then, for 18 months, the City dealt only with SunCal, and D.E. Shaw never returned to Alameda.

    Late in that 18 month period, Alamedans learned that a SunCal/D.E. Shaw partnership in Albuquerque had defaulted on its huge mortgage for that project; the mortgage lender had started foreclosure; SunCal had filed a bankruptcy for that partnership to try to stop the foreclosure; and the Delaware based bankruptcy court dismissed the bankruptcy case as having been filed in bad faith, for no reason but to delay the foreclosure. The New Mexico courts resumed jurisdiction over the foreclosure.

    By that point, the senior city staff and City Council of Alameda saw the handwriting on the wall: If D.E. Shaw was going to walk away from its multi-million dollar project with SunCal in Albuquerque, because of the decline in the real estate market generally, they certainly were not going to dump cash into Alameda Point.

    In the last days or weeks of negotiations between SunCal and the city, prior to the expiration of the exclusive negotiation agreement, SunCal never took the wise course to bring the “big guns” from D.E. Shaw to City Hall, to assure the city and its residents that D.E. Shaw was still “in for the full monte, in terms of cash investment in Alameda Point”. George Rizk the head of D.E. Shaw’s real estate department never showed up in Alameda to address the public, the City Council or the city staff. Mr. Rizk’s lieutenants at D.E. Shaw never showed up to waive the company’s green flag. No one from D.E. Shaw showed up.

    That’s probably one of the reasons why Alameda’s City Council wisely decided not to renew the exclusive negotiation agreement.

    After that decision, the SunCal/D.E. Shaw relationship ended, at least for now, when D.E. Shaw decided not to pay what was due on the Albuquerque mortgage loan. The mortgage lender foreclosed. See:

    According to several stories about the Albuquerque property which SunCal and D.E. Shaw lost to foreclosure, it was bigger than the city of Boston.

    Losing multi-millions in equity investment money is not an insignificant event for D.E. Shaw. Quite obviously they made their decision carefully.

    While all of the foregoing was going on, as extensively reported by Action Alameda News, in the Orange County Superior Court, a hedge fund named Gray1 CPB LLC was suing the SunCal parent company SCC Acquisitions, Inc. for $11 Million on an unpaid loan guarantee, and also suing suing SCC Acquisition, Inc.’s owner, Bruce Elieff, for failure to make payment on another separate guarantee of that $11 Million. After trial, a jury decided the $11 Million was due and owing and that SCC’s and Elieff’s defensive claims were without merit. Separately, the trial judge made a finding that Bruce Elieff was the owner of SCC Acquisition, Inc. and that SCC Acquisitions Inc. was the owner of more than 100 subsidiaries. Yet with an empire that big, Mr. Elieff couldn’t or wouldn’t come up with the $11 Million to pay the plaintiff lender, forcing the lender to run around California putting liens on attachable assets owned by SCC Acquisition, Inc. and Mr. Elieff. The court even issued writs of attachment against property held by an Elieff relative. As late as a month after the trial, the unpaid lender was back at the Orange County court getting more writs of execution to try to collect what was due and owing from Mr. Elieff and SCC Acquisition, Inc.

    SCC Acquisition, Inc.’s and Elieff’s interests in/claims against the roughly 20 Lehman/SunCal projects where also attached by the order of that Orange County court, and there is simply little hope that SunCal will be able to settle or develop those projects, to generate cash flow, because Lehman has cut off cash to pay development costs, SunCal is appealing Lehman’s bankruptcy court judge’s multiple rulings against it, and now SunCal is asking the Orange County bankruptcy court judge in the Lehman/SunCal cases to put all further litigation on SunCal’s claims against Lehman for wrongdoing on hold, until appeals of the NY bankruptcy court judge’s decisions are finalized, likely 2 years in the future.

    In yet another Lehman/SunCal bankruptcy case, involving 3 very troubled SunCal projects, including the one in Bakersfield where the goats were grazing on the championship golf course, the bankruptcy trustee has “turned against SunCal” and made a deal with Lehman to auction off the 3 projects and split the proceeds between Lehman, the project’s multitude of mechanic lien creditors and unsecured creditors. That settlement is awaiting the NY Lehman bankruptcy court judge’s approval. Losing those 3 projects simply provide a further nail in the coffin, in terms of SunCal’s real estate development prowess.

    The latest story link posted by Action Alameda, to yet another foreclosure of a huge SunCal project in Chino, CA simply shows another economically destabilizing blow for Mr. Elieff and SCC Acquisition, Inc.’s creditworthiness in terms of raising money to fully build out SunCal’s vision for Alameda Point.

    I would like to think that Alameda City Council members and Council candidates who still “believe in SunCal” are intelligent people who are simply uninformed and naive about the economic reality of the demise of the SunCal Companies’ empire, let alone the economic ability of its owner Mr. Elieff to find unattached cash to prop it up.

    However, no one can be quite that naive. So I can only think the worst of anyone who shows any inclination for the City of Alameda to re-involve itself with Mr. Elieff and SCC Acquisitions Inc. dba The SunCal Companies.

    Sadly, once a new deal is made “You can’t fix stupid.”

  • […] of the letter that City of Alameda Special Counsel Michael Colontuono sent in response. More at Action Alameda News.Alameda School-Supply Drive Collects, Donates 400 BackpacksThe Alameda Education Foundation […]

  • People who are still “Pro-SunCal” are also terribly naive about real estate, development, the current market and urban planning. Many of them are, like John-Knox White, dedicated believers in “Density,” the theory which teaches that the best way to avoid suburban sprawl and long commutes is to pack as much housing into the inner city and such close-in regions as Alameda Point, as possible. The success of this theory, of course, hinges on successful mass public transit, the notion that bus lines, ferries, BART will take most of the new traffic that could result from Density off the commuter streets and highways.

    Unfortunately, AC Transit and MUNI face such enormous deficits they have been cutting back on bus schedules, not expanding them. Likewise, BART faces unfunded maintenance issues and bloated salaries that cause almost weekly increases in fares, losing passengers. Ferries take very few autos off the streets. Even carpools have been impacted by recent bridge tolls instituted for carpool lanes. It is naive to believe that mass public transit will relieve traffic congestion that will inevitably result from the placement of a large residential development at the Point.

    Likewise, both the residential and commercial real estate markets are severely depressed, and will not likely recover anytime soon. At least a million homes in America are in foreclosure, and as they are put onto the market, will further depress home prices. Construction costs, however, have risen sharply over the past decade, making it very difficult to build new housing at a profit without cutting corners. No one wants shoddy housing at the Point.

    Many SunCal partisans, and those running for office on the “SunCal Slate,” believe that the plan presented by SunCal for Alameda Point was a wonderful vision of housing, retail and recreation that would have transformed that third of the island into a paradise on earth. It is much more likely that Alameda Point would have instead resembled BayPort, a community of cookie-cutter dwellings without any architectural styling, personality or character. And as for the parks and schools and walking trails — the minute SunCal runs low on funding and credit, those would be the first things to go.

    Instead, let Alameda Point develop naturally, neighborhood by neighborhood, as the rest of the island has. Unlike South Shore and Harbor Bay — Master Communities plunked down by Master Developers — the development of small parcels at the Point, with a V.A. Hospital here, the Auctions By the Bay Theater there, some of the old hangers put to use by film makers, a gradual and organic creation of a real community, with diversity of architecture, some light industry, minimum residential — the Point can grow out over 20 years. And in the history of the island, even that time period is truncated, the main island developing since the 1850s. Given the current real estate market, that’s a much more realistic scenario than another Master Development like Harbor Bay or BayPort.

  • Richard Hausman

    It’s just like Mr. “first-in-my-class” Colontuono to fail to mention all the facts. District Attorney Nancy O’Malley ran unopposed and was also endorsed by Mayor Johnson and Councilmember deHaan. Yet, for some reason he didn’t mention them but chose to drag Rob Bonta and Marie Gilmore, along with the entire Alameda County Democratic Party Central Committee into his response. Of course, none of them, Johnson & deHaan included, had anything to do with the issue presented to the DA but Mr. “first-in-my-class” at someone’s direction, included them in his response. Because of that, it’s now clear that City funds are being used in campaign efforts.

  • The Alameda County Central Democratic Committee endorsed Nancy O’Malley for the June 8th election. She was appointed to the position earlier in the year by Tom Orloff.

    The same committee has endorsed Tam/Bonta/Gilmore and Wilma Chan. The Vice-Chair of the Alameda County Democratic Party Central Committee, Royce Kelly and Shawn Wilson of Alameda County Supervisor Alice Lai-Bitker’s staff run Alliance Campaigns, which is a consultant to Tam. Bonta and Tam share the same campaign treasurer.

    And Barbara Kahn is a long-time Tam supporter and a Bonta supporter.

    And Colontuono appears to have uncovered evidence of a “personal and political” relationship between O’Malley and Tam.

    All that being said, Richard – do you have any evidence that Colontuono was “directed” by someone in City Hall to include those other names in his letter? Or is this just a conspiracy theory?

  • The same partisans who applaud the termination of any investigation into Tam also say they support “Sunshine” so long as it doesn’t include their favorites — Tam, Gilmore and Bonta. All we can do to restore some semblance of the true character of Alameda is to defeat these candidates at the polls. As they say in Chicago, “Vote early and often!”